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Destroying Canada’s Farms, for What?

Carbon taxes make Canada’s farms uncompetitive in return for little environmental benefit.

(Zoran Karapancev/Shutterstock)

On April 1, 2018, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau implemented a national minimum carbon price of $15 (Canadian) per tonne, due to rise to $170 per ton by 2030. Last month, he added a second carbon tax that, according to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, will “require producers to reduce the carbon content of their fuels or be forced to purchase credits.”

These two carbon taxes will cost the average family more than $2,000 per year, according to the Government of Canada’s own calculations. The same report notes that the taxes will “disproportionately impact lower and middle-income households,” “single mothers,” and “seniors living on fixed incomes.” 


If the Bank of Canada’s rumored “digital loonie” comes to pass, Trudeau will have another tool at his disposal. With central bank digital currency, he would be able to impose punitive taxes on, say, meat with a mere flick of a switch, while algorithmically subsidizing meat alternatives such as lab-grown meat or, dare I say, bugs. All in the name of carbon reduction.

One has to wonder, is the focus on carbon taxation purely about reducing carbon emissions? Or is there a deeper, more sinister agenda at play? Richard Lindzen, who served as the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology at MIT for 30 years until his retirement in 2013, said, “Controlling carbon is a bureaucrat’s dream. If you control carbon, you control life.”

The maddening part is that even if Trudeau imposes a hundred new carbon taxes, it will all be for naught. Climate change is indifferent to borders, and Canada’s modest population of 40 million does nothing to sway the global balance. If Canada were a Chinese province, it would rank sixteenth in population behind Guangdong (127 million), Shandong (102 million), Henan (99 million), and thirteen others. Coal is the main source of energy in China. 

“Canada’s own emissions are not large enough to materially impact climate change,” admits Trudeau’s own Parliamentary Budget Office, due to increased emissions from the developing world.

How can a Canadian farmer dream of competing with an American farmer? Consider North Dakota, which shares a border with the province of Saskatchewan. What incentive is there for an agribusiness to invest in Saskatchewan, when it could drive 30 minutes south and bypass the massive carbon tax? This is reflected in investment outcomes. Canadian business investment per worker was $14,687 in 2021, compared with $26,751 in the United States. 


“My competitors to the south of me in the United States do not pay that [carbon] tax, so now my cost goes up and I have no alternative,” says Jeff Barlow, a corn, wheat, and soybean farmer in Ontario. “By penalizing me, there’s nothing else that I can do but just be penalized.”

“If you push farmers against the wall with no wiggle room, I don’t know where this will end up,” warns Gunter Jochum, president of the Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association. “Just look at what’s happening in Europe, in the Netherlands. They’ve had enough of it.”

The coming decade will see a significant shift in Canada's agricultural industry. Since 2001, the number of farm operators under the age of 55 has sharply declined by 54 percent. Over 40 percent of the country’s farm operators are predicted to retire over the next decade, and two-thirds of them lack a formal succession plan. A pall of despair hangs heavy over the industry as Canadian farmers are dwindling, depressed, and overtaxed.

I reached out to Jonathan Pedneault, deputy leader of the Green Party of Canada, to steelman the opposite perspective. He told me:

“The climate emergency is upon us and already having an impact on numerous farming communities throughout our country. Water scarcity and crop losses are becoming more frequent. Meanwhile, some of our crops are struggling to deal with shifts in growing seasons, not to mention extreme weather events and migrating pests and diseases. These are existential challenges for farmers and our agricultural system. In that context, the real competition has less to do with foreign markets not implementing carbon reduction methods and incentives, including carbon taxes, but with an unregulated, unpredictable and devastating climate that ravages crops and threatens not only Canada’s food security, but the entire world’s.”

His proposed solution would include “introducing tariffs for countries that apply no carbon tax or one that is lesser than Canada’s.” He criticized the current government for burdening “smaller businesses and family-owned farms” with the cost of climate adaptation and said the Greens would instead favor “a government-backed transition plan that injects significant resources into helping our communities and small to medium size companies to enter the green economy in a way that doesn’t hurt working families throughout the country.” 

Since Pedneault mentioned that “shifts in growing seasons” would hurt farmers, I followed up: Would hotter growing seasons, brought on by global warming, not be beneficial for Canadian farmers, since their main constraint is cold weather?

He responded: “The changes would be short lived, given recurring droughts and water management expected. Furthermore, the higher the carbon concentration in the air, the lower the nutritive yield for traditional crops like wheat.”

Regardless of whether one believes that a longer, warmer growing season would be a boon for Canadian farmers, one brutal truth beats like a drum: Canadian carbon taxes won’t sway the trajectory of global climate change, not by one iota.